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"Give Me Liberty!"
Henry: “Give me liberty !” Poets have expressed in verse, man's eternal longing for freedom; statesmen have voiced it in great orations; painters have interpreted it on canvas; musicians have recorded it in song and ballad. It is one of the important tasks of educators—teachers in classrooms, lecturers in forums, speakers on the radio, columnists in the press—to make this dramatic phrase meaningful to people of the modern world.
This booklet brings together memorable expressions on liberty and democracy by philosophers, statesmen, and writers of all times. It also presents in brief story form memorable episodes in the neverending struggle for freedom. The selected references suggest sources of additional material on these subjects.
If these quotations and stories find their way into classroom discussions, speeches, radio dramas, and the hearts and memories of the people, this little book, brought out with the hope that it will help educators and others to interpret and make vivid the principles we seek to preserve, will have made its contribution to democratic morale.
Morale is composed of many elements. Health-physical and mental-is one of the elements. Confidence that a reasonable degree of security and opportunity can be obtained in our society is another. Hope of future progress and increasing economic welfare is still another. Yet, in the days ahead, there may not be much security or safety. Life may be more difficult and dangerous. Dislocations in the economic system seem inevitable. Therefore, morale must grow out of personal convictions of moral values.
Men have bartered away their freedom for temporary material gains only to find that sacrifice and deprivation are demanded in the name of conquest and war. The morale of a democracy is, in part, strengthened and developed by a deep and abiding faith in the enduring moral values. Americans must feel themselves a part of the great human struggles of the centuries through which the moral principles of freedom and respect for the individual have been won and rewon.
They must recognize the voices of destruction, promising material prosperity in return for blind obedience to arbitrary authority, for what they are—the hollow echo of an ancient and recurring tyranny. They must see more clearly than ever that material prosperity and economic progress rest, as they always have, on moral foundations. Confidence in the ultimate triumph of free government is essential to morale.
Men are no less uncomfortable as slaves today than they were 4,000 years ago. They respond to voices of deliverance. The victims of autocracy must struggle to free themselves, but we have an even harder task-we must maintain the freedom we have already
It is harder because we take it for granted this freedom. Hence, we need the poets and the statesmen, the teachers and the philosophers to sharpen and quicken our perceptions—to make us aware of the meaning of freedom. The words in this handbook, if quoted frequently and spread abroad, may serve this high purpose.
JOHN W. STUDEBAKER, U.S. Commissioner of Education.